During his speech on the annexation of four Ukrainian regions, Kremlin chief Putin said remarkably little about Ukraine. Instead, it was about the hostile west. According to experts, the speech was Putin’s most anti-American speech. Suddenly he stopped threatening nuclear weapons.
Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin has declared four occupied Ukrainian territories as Russian territory. “The residents of Luhansk and Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia will forever be our citizens,” Putin said on Friday. “People voted for our common future.” Putin spoke to the country’s political elite for around 40 minutes on Friday. Russia experts assessed the most important statements and their political relevance.
For the Danish Eastern Europe expert Anders Aslund, Putin was distant and “lost”. He read the paper with difficulty without using a teleprompter and claimed that the West was cynically fighting against freedom and democracy, Aslund said. The audience looked like at a “funeral,” he continues. “Putin might as well have said he got lost and lost.”
Putin once again made the “enemy” very clear: the West, which he describes as a bunch of “Satanists”. The West wants to weaken Russia and ensure that the country “die” in famine. Putin confirmed: “We will never bow down”.
In his speech, however, Putin specifically addressed the United States. According to several experts, his speech was more anti-American than ever. “I’ve seen many speeches by Putin over the past 10-15 years, and this is by far the most anti-American,” writes journalist Max Seddon, the Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times. “If I were a western politician and I wondered if he really would use nuclear weapons – and he hasn’t even got around to it – I would be very concerned,” Seddon said.
Elena Chernenko, a journalist with the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant, confirms this. His speech in Munich in 2007 was just “baby talk compared to what was said in the Kremlin today”. In the speech at the time, Putin said that the United States should no longer be the only great power because it would impose its values on all countries. Now Putin said something similar: The US would want other countries to surrender under them. American power is “aggressive and greedy for profit”. Americans would want power without restrictions.
One thing was particularly striking about Putin’s speech. He did not explicitly threaten nuclear weapons. He said Russia will use “all the means at our disposal” to defend its annexed territories. But he did not speak directly about his own willingness to attack Ukraine or the West. Putin’s key message on nuclear weapons: “The United States is the only country in history that has ever used nuclear weapons. By the way, you are setting a precedent.”
Again, Putin blames the Americans. Expert Seddon concludes: “Typical Putin: Using nuclear weapons is bad, but since the USA did it, it would also be justified to do so in order to force Ukraine to surrender.” Putin also conceals the chaos caused by his partial mobilization, also mentioned he did not know how the sanctions would affect Russia. Only: The West wants to isolate Russia and Europe would only have imposed the sanctions because it would have bowed to the Americans.
Aside from the four annexed territories, Putin spoke surprisingly little about Ukraine, unlike before. While in his speech on the partial mobilization he kept ranting about Kiev’s “Nazi regime”, on Friday he mainly spoke about the West, and again the USA and history. “Putin is playing a medley of his usual arguments to justify more land grabs,” said Russia expert Shaun Walker.
Putin described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a tragedy. The people of Ukraine would now return to their “historic homeland”. He looked back to the Middle Ages, and the word “colonization” was used particularly often. Western countries have always sought colonies and will expel any country that does not join them. Russia expert Walker assesses Putin’s speech dryly: “Putin talks about slavery, the plundering of India, the annihilation of native tribes in the USA… It is not entirely clear how this is connected to the attempt to annex areas of Ukraine.”
“Western elites think that their sins must be accepted by everyone,” Putin said. They would want to rule the whole world. But the West lives in an ocean of lies. “Like Goebbels, the more lies the better,” Putin said. He went on to say that Russia wants to lead an “anti-colonial movement” to liberate the world. “We must turn this disgraceful tide. Western hegemony will be crushed. This is inevitable. We must do this for our people, for great historical Russia.”
The only people willing to live by US rules are “political masochists and other adherents of non-traditional political relationships.” Putin once again made remarkably homophobic statements in the speech. He made it clear that Russia rejects the “Western way of life” and tolerance of homosexuality.
He also complained about gender transformations. “I address all citizens of Russia: instead of mom and dad, do we want parent one and parent two?” He continued: “Are you guys crazy? Do we want that there is no male and female, but that there is another gender? no We have a different future.” Russia expert Walker expected that. He was surprised that Putin’s homophobic statements were only coming now.